On February 16th, Marvel’s ”Black Panther” leapt into cinemas across the country earning instant widespread acclaim. To date the film has grossed over $4.7 million domestically and well over $909.9 million at the global box office with the numbers expected to continue to grow. However, long before T’Challa and the Dora Milaje defended Wakanda on the silver screen, a young Bartlett native began to nurture dreams of a future in Hollywood that would eventually take her from running track as a Bartlett Panther to fighting alongside Marvel’s Black Panther.
It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For many of us a particular aspiration or dream may seem so unreal and unattainable we may talk ourselves out of even beginning the journey. For Bartlett track and cross country alum Carrie Bernans, a 2010 graduate of Bartlett High School, the dream of a career in the film industry flowered in early childhood. However, she admits that taking that first step was anything but easy.
”I’d always aspired to get into acting as a young child but it seemed unreachable at some moments. I did some theater and dance here and there but it really happened after college. I really gave it my all and put all my efforts to push towards it” said Bernans. ”I got into stunt work because I wanted to set myself apart. In Los Angeles there are so many people who are actors. I asked myself how can I really stand out and thankfully due to my athletic ability with endurance and lessons learned from running track and doing other sports really helped me out”
Bernans is quick to point out how her involvement in running track both at Bartlett High School and the University of Memphis helped her take the big step toward her ultimate goal. In life as on the track surface, she learned that things don’t happen overnight but if you keep your focus on your goal and endure the challenges that inevitably come then you can achieve what you strive for.
”In track sometimes it takes you a while to change your mindset with the way you run and approach the sport. A lot it is a mental thing where you have to believe you can and work hard at it to make things happen” noted Bernans as she went on to further emphasize the importance of hard work.
“You have to be willing to put in the work” she said. ”Out here in Hollywood a lot of people assume that ‘I don’t have to take acting classes’ or ‘ I don’t have to go train at the gym to do stunts’ but it’s all important and part of the process. Being an athlete and running track really taught me that the persistence to keep going even when it hurts, even when you’re tired and don’t think you have any more is when need to give it your all because that extra effort is what is going to push you over the top.”
For Carrie that effort landed her a role in Marvel’s smash hit “Black Panther” as a member of the Dora Milaje, the elite group of female warriors sworn to serve and protect the king of Wakanda. As previously mentioned, the film is certainly commanding respect at the box office but much more important than it’s economic impression has been it’s growing impact as a cultural phenomenon.
That is something not lost on Carrie as she reflected on what being involved in the project meant to her.
”The movie means a lot. It shows women in a strong light. It shows that they’re strong warrior women that are queens and should be treated as such. That’s a very powerful message that needs to be shed on Hollywood and throughout the world that women need to own their power. I also would specifically say that for African-Americans for so long we have been portrayed as drug dealers, slaves, or servant roles and this is a moment where we are portrayed as people who can lead the way in technology, that can be the superhero, that can be a strong warrior. There are so many beautiful messages in ‘Black Panther’ that makes it bigger than just a Marvel movie.”
Carrie has been involved in stunt work on other projects as well including an episode of Netflix’s hit “Luke Cage” and this year has completed work on an episode of NBC’s “This Is Us”
As she jetted off from the gym in preparation for yet another stunt role, Bernans had these words of encouragement for current Bartlett Panthers, athlete and non-athlete alike, as they begin those first steps in the journey to seek fulfill their own life goals.
”I want students to believe that nothing is impossible. I know a lot of people say that and I know it’s hard for some to get that into their mindset. Maybe they grew up in a situation where mom and dad weren’t there or maybe they come from a very privileged background but feel they can’t tell their parents what their real dreams are. It’s going to take you deciding to be fully confident in who you are to really shine and chase your dreams.”
More than just self-confidence, she emphasizes the importance having the courage to take that first step.
” You can either keep in the mindset of a ‘one day’ or a ‘day one’. You can always say ‘Oh, I’m going to do it tomorrow’ or ‘Tomorrow I’ll try harder’. Why not try today ? Why don’t you say today is going to be day one of a new journey that you decide to do what you need to do.”
She also earnestly spoke to the need to seek out and surround oneself with the right people.
”Surround yourself with people who are going to support and help you and distance yourself from those who do not. So many kids deal with bullying circumstances because they are at school and feel like they have to fit in but it really comes down to a moment when a person decides they may be the loud giggly girl and the one with a strong personality who doesn’t mind saying ‘Hey, you wanna be friends?’ because I did that at Bartlett High School and it’s how I became friends with my best friends in school. I wanted to be friends with them because I saw that they were smart and how they did work in class and how they answered questions. That’s how I went about things and I wanted to be around them.”
Ultimately, Carrie’s message to today’s Bartlett Panthers is one of strength, hope, and perseverance.
”You have to own your power” she says. ” You have to be confident in that”
Carrie Bernans’ drive to succeed is firmly rooted in her belief in herself, the dedication required to achieve her goals, and the mindset to stay the course even when the journey seems too far and the goal unreachable.
The sky is the limit for this former Bartlett Panther and that limit may not stand much of a chance.
Watch Carrie’s extraordinary transformation into Dora Milaje warrior !
From 16 inches of curly hair to being bald. My journey into becoming a #DoraMilaje for #BlackPanther 🖤 this is why I went bald. It was a totally liberating, transformational, & crazy experience that I would say YES to all over again. Feel free to share, comment, and tell me if you would do it too. #hair #hairgoals #blackpanther #blackhistory #girl #curlyhair #dream #actorslife
Posted by Carrie Annie Bernans on Monday, February 19, 2018